Real money blackjack has long been considered one of the games in the casino with lowest house edge. It’s a great option for players of all skill levels. While this is technically true, it doesn’t exactly tell the full story.
For those who have years of experience at blackjack tables, the odds are as good as you’ll find anywhere on the gaming floor. However, for players who are new to the game, there’s still a bit of a learning curve in order to take advantage of the low house edge.
In this article, I’ll lay out five reasons why blackjack isn’t always the best option.
1 – You Have to Memorize Probabilities
Blackjack, unlike roulette, craps, baccarat, or any other “games of chance,” requires players to know what the right plays are at all times in order to reduce the house edge. For example, there’s no statistical advantage one way or the other in terms of choosing red or black at the roulette table, but in blackjack there’s a major statistical difference in hitting or staying when you’re dealt 15 in blackjack.
Not only do you have to consider what your chances are of getting a certain number, but also the dealer’s as well. Just to get this out there early, you can try to learn how to count cards if you want. But unless you become extremely proficient at it (which takes quite a bit of time and practice), you’re probably better off just learning how to play the game the old-fashioned way.
When you think of the words “basic blackjack strategy” you may be surprised to learn that despite knowing all the rules of the game, you’re actually pretty far behind when it comes to making the optimal plays on a regular basis.
Suffice to say that you shouldn’t have to think about whether you should hit or stay in certain situations; it should be second nature. If it’s not, you haven’t yet reached the level that would get blackjack down to that low house edge everyone’s talking about.
Unfortunately, there’s no easy strategy here. You just have to practice until it finally clicks. The good news? Plenty of resources are available to help you out.
2 – Too Many Tables Are 6:5
Some players might remember a time when it felt like all blackjack tables paid out at 3:2. Though the casino was obviously not making every last dollar they possibly could off blackjack players, nobody would argue that the system wasn’t working just fine.
One day it all came crashing down and casinos realized that they could get a little bit more money out of their patrons by changing blackjack from 3:2 payments to 6:5. You don’t need to be a math wizard to recognize that 3:2 would pay $15 on a $10 bet, while 6:5 would only pay $12 on a $10 bet. It might not seem all the significant, but at scale and over a long period of time (for both players and the house), these numbers become huge.
Many amateur gamblers have the misconception that small changes in payout odds don’t really have a huge impact on their blackjack bankroll (that is, if they have a bankroll at all). But it adds up quick. Consider the equation above, but with $100 instead of $10. Imagine receiving $120 when you were used to receiving $150 in the past. Now, multiply that by 10. See how it starts to build?
My advice would be to try to avoid tables that play 6:5, and instead, look at those which pay at 3:2. It might take a little extra work on your end, but believe me, it’s more than worth it to seek out the better odds.
3 – You Could Get Banned for Winning Too Much
First and foremost, it bears mentioning that most gamblers would love nothing more than to find themselves in a situation where they’ve won so much the casino is considering giving them the boot.
Believe it or not, casinos are not exactly a democracy, and the rules pretty much come down to, “whatever we say goes, and there’s nothing you can do about it.” That’s an argument for another day, but it’s used much more often than you’d think when it comes to big-time blackjack players.
Some players are able to count cards with some level of proficiency, and yes, this is a major advantage that they’re getting over the casino. It’s a tricky situation in the sense that card counting isn’t technically illegal (it’s only illegal if you’re using some type of device or cheating system. They can’t outlaw what’s simply in your head).
Now, most people probably don’t ever have to worry about this happening because the majority of average bettors simply aren’t wagering enough to warrant removal. But it’s still important to keep in mind that if you win too much, the casino might tell you to get lost.
4 – They Try to Trick You With Things Like Insurance
Insurance is a good thing to have in your personal life. Whether you’re talking about your home, car, valuables, or any number of things that are important to you, insuring them is a great way to achieve the peace of mind of knowing you’re protected if something should happen. This type of insurance is nothing short of essential.
When it comes to insurance in blackjack, forget everything you thought about insurance previously! If you don’t know exactly what I’m talking about, here’s when insurance would come into play: If you’re dealt two face cards or a 10 and a face card (your hand equals 20) and the dealer has an ace showing, you’ll be offered insurance. If you accept and the dealer hits a blackjack, you won’t lose your money. Of course, this insurance doesn’t come for free.
Casinos make it out to seem like they’re trying to look out for you by giving you the opportunity to save yourself when you’re in a risky situation (the dealer with an ace showing), but the truth is much less generous. In reality, they’re actually just trying to slip in another way to extract more money from you.
It’s worth asking the question, “Why is insurance a bad bet?” To revisit section one of this article, the answer just comes down to the odds and probabilities. I won’t go into the specifics of the numbers (because it’s confusing and quite frankly, it doesn’t really matter), but all you should know is that insurance is not a good bet.
If you’re looking for one takeaway you can apply to your blackjack strategy that will instantly give you a better chance of winning, remember that you should never take insurance, as tempting as it may be when you see that dealer showing an ace.
I hope this article is not discouraging to players of any experience level who were hoping to try their hand at blackjack during their next visit to the casino. Of course, the only way to get better at anything is by doing it, so I’d recommend keeping your bets low, but playing as many hands as possible.
Once you master the concepts and probabilities described here, you’ll be on your way to growing your bankroll while feeling like you should be the star of the next 21 movie.